On the Rise: Marijuana Use and Vaping Among Young Adults

Past-month nicotine vaping doubles among college students. 2018 Monitoring the Future College Students and Young Adults Survey Results. This jump is among the greatest one-year increase seen for any substance in the history of the survey. College 6.1% in 2017; 15.5% in 2018. Non-college 7.9% in 2017; 12.5% in 2018.
Image by NIDA

Update (January 2020): Government Regulation of E-cigarettes 

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established a rule for e-cigarettes and their liquid solutions. Because e-cigarettes contain nicotine derived from tobacco, they are now subject to government regulation as tobacco products. In December 2019, the federal government raised the legal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years, and in January 2020, the FDA issued a policy on the sale of flavored vaping cartridges. 


Life after high school is full of changes. Some of those changes are positive opportunities, like a new job or college classes, while others aren’t, like more exposure to drug use.

When it comes to drug use, what choices are young adults making right now?

Some of their choices are cause for concern. According to the 2018 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, young adults (ages 19 to 22) reported an increase in marijuana use, including vaping marijuana, compared with 2017. More young adults also reported vaping nicotine in 2018.

Let’s look at the details. In 2018, past-year use of marijuana reached an all-time high (43%) among young adults. One in 17 college students reported using marijuana daily or almost daily, compared to one in nine non-college young adults. The infographic below sums it up:

Among college students, past-month nicotine vaping more than doubled from 2017 (6%) to 2018 (15.5%). This is one of the largest increases for any substance since the MTF survey began more than 40 years ago. Nicotine vaping now appears to be more popular with college students than it is with young adults who don’t attend college (15.5% vs. 12.5%). Check out this infographic:

While cigarette smoking continues to be at an all-time low for both groups, more non-college young adults report smoking than their college peers.

The report had some good news: Both college and non-college young adults reported a significant 5-year decline in misuse of prescription opioids. When it came to the misuse of Adderall (a prescription stimulant), rates were higher among college men than college women. However, the reverse was true for non-college young adults: misuse of Adderall was higher for women than for men. See the infographic below.

More good news: Binge drinking (having five or more alcoholic drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks) continues to decline among young adults. For college students, the rate dipped below 30% for the first time since the survey began (to 28%). About 25% of non-college young adults reported binge drinking in 2018.

By learning the facts about marijuana, nicotine, and vaping in your teen years, and carrying that knowledge throughout your life, you can stay healthier and keep the positive trends growing. That’s a choice worth making.

(Read a text version of these infographics.)

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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